IT'S ONLY IN THE MIDDLE EAST WE DENY MAJORITIES SUCH DEALS:

January 26, 2007

Kosovo Wins Support For Split From Serbia: U.S., European Allies Agree to Secession With Ongoing International Supervision (R. Jeffrey Smith, 1/26/07, Washington Post)

Nearly eight years after NATO warplanes intervened in a bitter ethnic conflict between Serbs and rebellious Kosovo Albanians in the former Yugoslavia, the United States and its European allies have agreed to support Kosovo’s permanent secession from Serbia under continuing international supervision, according to senior U.S. and European officials.

The decision is likely to lead, possibly as early as this summer, to the formal creation of a new Connecticut-size country in southeastern Europe with membership in the United Nations and, eventually, its own army, the officials said. […]

Historically a province of Serbia, Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999. That year, a 78-day air campaign by NATO forced out the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army, ending its brutal war against guerrillas fighting for self-rule for the province’s ethnic Albanian majority. Many members of Kosovo’s Serb minority have since fled Albanian retribution.

The new plan, a culmination of lengthy diplomatic consultations between nervous continental Europeans and more enthusiastic Americans and British, is meant in part to alleviate continuing intense pressure from the Albanians for independence. Western officials fear that without official action on the issue, new violence might break out this summer.

Officials say that finally allowing Kosovo to stand mostly on its own also has a major economic impetus: They anticipate it would open the door to private investment, new Western lending and aid, supplanting more than $2.5 billion already poured into the province by foreigners since 1999 with only a slight impact on a faltering and highly corrupt economy.

Kosovo has Europe’s largest deposits of lignite coal. Economic planners hope that the new state might build power plants and emerge as a primary supplier of electricity to its Balkan neighbors.

Some diplomats caution that achievement of consensus by the Western powers might not be the end of the tale: Serbia’s leaders have persistently and heatedly campaigned against any forced separation of one of their country’s provinces.

It’s a model for The Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq, at a minimum.


ARE WE NOT EUROPEAN? WE ARE DEVO:

January 23, 2007

Kosovo breakaway could raise Scot Nats’ hopes (Simon Tisdall, January 23, 2007, The Guardian)

The breakaway British region of Scotland could be among the beneficiaries of this week’s expected UN recommendation that Kosovo be granted provisional independence from Serbia, leading in time to full sovereign status. If the plan backed by the US, Britain and Germany is formally accepted by the UN security council, it will be taken as an important international legal precedent by would-be separatist movements from Georgia to Moldova to Chechnya, and possibly also the Scottish National party.

Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president who is the UN’s point man on Kosovo, will put forward his proposals on Friday, when he meets the Kosovo contact group in Vienna. If he follows the expected script and backs independence, the implications will be explosive not only for Serbia but for EU unity and Russia’s touchy relations with the west.

Kosovo has been part of Serbia since the Middle Ages. By comparison, the Act of Union binding Scotland and England dates back a mere 300 years, to 1707. Serbs view Kosovo as integral to their history and nationhood. Most are adamantly opposed to a breakup, as shown by nationalist success in Sunday’s election. But opinion polls suggest many English voters view the prospect of Scotland’s secession with equanimity.

To each “species” his own niche.


NONE TOO QUICK ON THE UPTAKE:

January 17, 2007

Rogue State America: Has America become a rogue state? (John B. Judis, 1/17/07, TNR Online)

What exactly are we doing in the Horn of Africa, where we have encouraged the Christian government of Ethiopia to invade Somalia and replace its Islamic government? As far as I can tell, we have violated international law, committed war crimes, helped Al Qaeda recruit new members, and involved ourselves in a guerrilla war that could last decades. It’s Iraq writ small. And it can’t be blamed on Donald Rumsfeld.

There’s an old principle of international law, going back to the seventeenth century, against one nation violating the sovereignty of another. It was often breached, but, after two world wars, it was enshrined in the United Nations charter. We criticized the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia and justified the first Gulf war on these grounds. The purpose of this principle has been to prevent wars that could arise if more powerful countries simply took it into their hands to dominate smaller, less powerful ones. […]

In the 1990s, foreign policy experts, eager to identify a new enemy, hit upon the concept of a “rogue state.” A rogue state operated outside the bounds of international norms and had to be restrained. The obvious candidates at the time were Libya, Iraq, and North Korea. But the Bush administration has turned the United States itself into a rogue state. Tough-minded conservatives, flexing their “muscular” inclinations from comfortable sinecures in Washington, may dismiss concerns about international law and war crimes as inventions of silly panty-waist liberals. But these inventions, which, in the modern era, were championed by Theodore Roosevelt, were meant to protect Americans as well as other peoples from the wars and the inhumanity that prevailed for thousands of years. We ignore them at their peril, whether in Haditha or Ras Kamboni.

Mr. Judis is correct about the intervention being a mistake vis-a-vis the Somali people, but if he’s just now noticing that we’re a rogue state and sovereignty is a dead letter he doesn’t pay much attention to American history.


NOT JUST EXCELLENT AS TO GEO-POLITICS, BUT…:

January 11, 2007

<a href=http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/opinion/la-op-kaplan7jan07,1,4915562.story
Arab nationalism's last gasp: Saddam Hussein’s execution likely means the end of the foolish secular Arab nationalism movement (Robert D. Kaplan, January 7, 2007, LA Times)

[J]ust as communism exit[ing] the European stage exposed for what it always truly was — fascism without fascism’s ability to make the trains run on time — secular Arab nationalism will exit the stage revealed for what it always was: a despotic perversion of the western nation-state that lasted as long as it did mainly because of secret-police techniques imported from the former Soviet Union.

Arab nationalism’s roots go back to the revolt against European colonialism in the early decades of the 20th century. But as it developed, it faced a serious problem: Because it was organized around the artificial national borders that these same colonialists had drawn — which generally ignored ethnic and sectarian lines — the result, in too many cases, was multiethnic rivalry and the subjugation of one part of the population by another.

In Iraq, for instance, the national borders created a state in which the majority Shiites were subjugated by the minority Sunnis (as we all now know). In Syria, the majority Sunnis came to be subjugated by the minority Alawites, who constitute a branch of Shiism (and who had been favored in the armed forces by the French). In Lebanon, it was the Shiites who ended up subjugated by both Christians and Sunnis.

No sooner were these independent new states created than the ties of faith and tribe were undermining them. A fragile unity of sorts could only be achieved by recourse to secular nationalism, which, on paper at least, aimed to transcend those bitter rivalries.

Indeed, the more artificial the state, the more extreme the secular ideology had to be to hold it together. To secure unwieldy tribal assemblages, for instance, an austere state socialism was required in Algeria, and a form of “Dear Leader Absolutism” in Libya. Because Syria and Iraq were also artificial constructs, these two states resorted to Baathism — another bastardized form of state socialism.

Contrast all this with places such as Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, which were age-old civilization clusters whose identities, rather than artificial, harked back to antiquity. It should be no surprise that these places produced more benign forms of secular government.

The two extremes in the Arab world became Tunisia and Iraq. Tunisia, a small country of Sunni Arabs with no internal divisions, which traced its borders back to ancient Carthage, produced Habib Bourguiba, the Arab version of the enlightened Turkish modernizer Kemal Ataturk. Iraq, a Frankenstein monster of a country assembled from warring ethnic and sectarian groups by the British, produced Saddam Hussein, the Arab Stalin. […]

Those who proclaim today that the only real solution to the Arab dilemma is political freedom are correct. The problem is that they are describing a process that could encompass several bloody decades. After all, it took centuries for stable democracy as we know it to evolve in Europe. In this Darwinian shaking-out process, the new forms of political legitimacy may more closely resemble militarized social welfare organizations such as Hezbollah and the Al Mahdi army than the ramshackle contrivances of the European model that we saw in the post-colonial era.

…he even gets the Darwinism analogy right.


WON'T NEED MINES ONCE IT'S IRRADIATED:

January 7, 2007

Afghan-Pakistani Bond Steadily Deteriorating: Plan for Border Fence, Mines Seen Deepening Distrust (Pamela Constable, 1/07/07, Washington Post)

A proposal by Pakistan to plant land mines along the border with Afghanistan, aimed at preventing Islamic insurgents from using Pakistan as a sanctuary, has aroused angry protests by Afghan leaders who say the mines would endanger innocent travelers and divide tribal lands whose inhabitants do not recognize the border.

It’s too illiberal an idea for polite company, but such a region, where no sovereign entity holds sway, can not be allowed to endure in the modern world.


THERE IS NO BOLIVIA?:

December 25, 2006

Bolivia’s Morales faces biggest test: Political leaders in wealthy regions, long alienated from his Andes power base, are pushing for more autonomy (Patrick J. McDonnell, December 25, 2006, LA Times)

A political insurrection has enveloped four provinces in Bolivia’s east, north and south, a swath of the country known as the half-moon that contains much of the nation’s wealth, including most of its gas reserves. Political leaders there, long alienated from Morales’ power base in the Andes heartland and the coca-growing tropics, are pushing for more autonomy.

Their supporters launched mass demonstrations, civic strikes and legislative action, culminating in huge protests Dec. 15.

“The road to autonomy is something that our society has been working toward for a long time, with mobilizations, protests and votes,” said Germán Antelo, president of the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz, the thriving eastern lowland city that is the heart of the autonomy movement. “We’re not looking to break away from Bolivia. We just want respect for popular will that seeks autonomy.”

What autonomy would mean in practice is unclear, although it probably would include local governments receiving a larger share of taxes and royalties from their natural gas. This is not a small thing at a time when gas revenue is expected to increase by billions of dollars thanks to new contracts negotiated with foreign energy companies under Morales’ nationalization scheme.

The president has signaled that he regards talk of autonomy as the first step toward breaking up the country, South America’s poorest. He derides the autonomy movement as the elite’s response to his leftist reforms.

Base your politics on racial identity and you’ve already ceded the self-determination argument.


THERE IS NO BELGIUM:

December 20, 2006

Bye bye Belgium? (Robert Mnookin and Alain Verbeke, December 20, 2006, International Herald Tribune)

On Wednesday night last week, Belgium’s French-speaking public television network created a stir with a surprise 90-minute broadcast that began with a news flash that Flanders had declared independence and that the Belgian state was breaking apart. The broadcast was inspired by Orson Welles’s 1938 radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’s “War of the Worlds,” but touched upon a possibility less fanciful than an invasion from Mars. For the reality is that Belgium’s days as a united nation may indeed be numbered.

Belgium only became a nation in 1830 and its union of Dutch-speaking Flemings in the north and French-speaking Walloons in south was never a love match. Instead, it was a marriage arranged by the great powers bent on creating a neutral buffer state.

Where does that Nasrallah get his ideas?


IT'S THEIR NATION, LET THEM DECIDE:

December 5, 2006

Musharraf suggests Pakistan willing to give up Kashmir claim (The Associated Press, December 5, 2006)

Pakistan is willing to give up its claim to all of Kashmir if India agrees that the disputed Himalayan region should become self-governing and largely autonomous, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Tuesday, according to an Indian television report.

Why should Kashmir be any different than Palestine, South Lebanon, Chechnya, etc….


TELL JONATHAN CHAIT TO STOP TRYING TO DIG UP MARCOS:

November 29, 2006

Is the Philippines Finally Turning Around?: Growth is up. The deficit is down. President Arroyo has survived impeachment threats. The service sector is thriving. Yet much remains to be done (Assif Shameen , 11/22/06, Business Week)

[T]he fact that the center is even close to completion is significant. It is all part of a concerted rebranding effort underway under Arroyo’s leadership for this sprawling archipelago—long viewed as a politically unstable economic underachiever. “We want the region and the world to see that the Philippines has arrived,” Arroyo said during an exclusive interview with BusinessWeek.com on Nov. 20.

Maybe Arroyo has arrived too, in a way. That she is even around to host the summit is nothing short of a miracle. A year ago, Arroyo’s five-year-old administration was under siege. Almost daily street demonstrators called for her ouster in what was billed as “People Power III.” That was not a good place to be, considering two previous people power waves of protest led to the removal of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Joseph Estrada in January 2001.

Amid rumors of military coups (that never transpired), Arroyo also managed to narrowly avoid an impeachment trial in the Congress over allegations of government corruption and vote fraud. Along the way, though, she stayed focused on economic reforms, pushing through tax hikes to cope with the country’s massive fiscal problems and ushering in other revenue-boosting measures. The economy is now in the best shape it has been since the 1950s. “I have said all along there is no gain without pain,” she points out.

Economists have boosted growth forecasts this year to 5.6%—and to more than 6.5% in 2007. Chronic budget deficits have almost been eliminated in a nation that was under scrutiny from credit agencies as a government-default candidate. Moreover, foreign investors are testing the waters again. Foreign direct investments hit $1.2 billion last year and likely will grow to $2 billion this year based on preliminary data. “We are now ready for a take-off,” Arroyo insists.

Analysts enjoy the Philippines turnaround story even though they say much more needs to be done. “Stronger economic fundamentals and growth are starting to feed off one another,” notes Rob Subbaraman, an economist for Lehman Brothers in Hong Kong.
Long Way to Go

Indeed, he is so impressed with the turnaround that Subbaraman says “credit rating agencies should start rewarding the Philippines for its economic growth” with upgrades. “The reforms have reached a critical point where virtuous spirals are developing,” he thinks.

President Arroyo’s Vision for the Philippines: She tells Businessweek.com about her plans to privatize, invest in infrastructure, and make the archipelago a top player in business process outsourcing (Assif Shameen , 11/22/06, Business Week)

Not long ago, the Philippines was in political turmoil, suffering from a huge budget deficit, weak currency and worries the country couldn’t compete with China or India. Today the International Monetary Fund praises the country. What has changed?

I am glad that people are seeing that we’ve finally arrived. There is no looking back from here. Clearly, because of the steps we took, the days of huge deficits are gone. Gone, too, are the days of stagnation and poor economic growth. We fought hard for economic reforms. The first phase was to raise the revenues needed to invest in our infrastructure and our people so that Philippines is a more competitive place to do business and have a better standard of living. Those first battles have been won.

The budget deficit is under control, we are on our way to having a balanced budget by 2008, the stock market is up, the peso is strong, poverty rate is down, per capita income is up, investors are coming in again, growth is robust, new revenues can now be invested in long-overdue repair and rebuilding of our infrastructure, education, health, and job creation. The IMF and credit-rating agencies recognize this and so we are getting constant upgrades. We believe we are now in a virtuous cycle where one good thing leads to another.

Still, the Philippines has an image problem. How do you counter this image issue and tell investors this time it’s for real?

Well, they can see the difficult economic reforms that we’ve undertaken. They can see the revenues that we’ve raised in order to make investments in infrastructure and education. They can also see that I was even willing to pay a political cost to get these through. Now the results are coming in. I am happy the investors are more forthcoming.

The IMF and credit rating agencies reflect the image that we have in the world and we are getting accolades from them for the improvements we have made. Investments are coming in a range of sectors from business process outsourcing to mining. We’ve made it clear that we only encourage mining investments that are ecologically responsible so that there is sustainable development.

Because we now have money to invest, I have announced a trillion peso (nearly $20 billion) infrastructure program for the medium term. The money will come from our new revenues, from government corporations as well as the private sector. A lot of private-sector companies and foreign investors have shown interest and we are now trying to move on the infrastructure projects.


TO ACCEPT NEGOTIATIONS IS TO ACCEPT STATEHOOD:

November 27, 2006

Olmert offers ‘serious’ plan for new state (Stephen Farrell, 11/27/06, Times of London)

Twenty-four hours after Palestinian militants began a ceasefire in Gaza, Israel’s Prime Minister sought to maintain the momentum yesterday by offering peace talks leading to the creation of a Palestinian state.

Ehud Olmert said that Israel would release prisoners, withdraw from West Bank Jewish settlements and ease checkpoints if Palestinians abandoned violence.

Pretty good test for the Palestinians–if they sit down it’s over.